The MPO Policy Board held its monthly meeting on August 15, 2007.  [

Click fo


r meeting agenda.

]  One of the agenda items concerned the proposed Regional
Transit Authority. Members heard from Frank Spielberg, the consultant
exploring potential options for how such an authority would be
organized.


Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo


Listen using player above or download the podcast:


Download 20070815-MPO.mp3


REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY UPDATE





Frank Spielberg of VHB (left) briefs MPO Policy Board members on the proposed Regional Transit Authority

Frank Spielberg of

Vanasse Hangen Brustlin

presented an update on the Regional Transit Authority Plan. VHB was hired by the MPO to study the possibility, but Spielberg had few details to share in this briefing.

“We are exploring many different options, and some of them can more easily be expanded than others,” he said. There are many different questions that need to be asked, ranging from what level of powers the new body should have, to how it would be funded. To inform its study, the consultant needs to identify service problems with the existing service. To better organize the RTA, Spielberg said they are looking at the legal structures of authorities in communities similar to Charlottesville.

“It’s not just physical equipment, there are also issues such as what the pension benefits would be for existing workers,” he said. “One of the key issues as we get down to it would be finding a system how we would pay for it? What’s an appropriate way for the county and the city split the funding?”

Councilor Dave Norris asked Spielberg if his team has considered integrating the proposed streetcar. Spielberg responded they had not, because the work scope did not specifically include the issue. He did say that his staff was aware that bus trunk routes his might compete for space with the streetcar. There’s been no further action on the streetcar initiative because of a vacancy by City staff supporting the Streetcar Task Force.

David Slutzky urged VHB to factor in the relationship between the availability of parking and ridership. He said more people would consider taking transit if there were fewer spaces.

Dennis Rooker said artificially taking out parking spaces for the sake of boosting ridership would be an immense project that would negatively affect county residents who live in rural areas. Julia Monteith from the University of Virginia said the school’s Transportation Demand Management plan will put Slutzky’s ideas into practice. She’ll present that plan at the MPO’s next meeting in October.

MPO Policy Board members also discussed the appropriate locations of park and ride lots. Should they be closer to departure points, or closer to arrival points? Spielberg said his team is identifying general areas where they might be located.

Spielberg said his team would be developing a preliminary report within the next month.

Peter Kleeman said the Regional Transit Authority may be obsolete because it would not include outlying areas like Louisa and Fluvanna counties which he says send thousands of commuters to Charlottesville every workday.

Albemarle County Supervisor and MPO Policy Board Chairman David Slutzky corrected Kleeman by saying that those areas are being discussed, even though they are outside the jurisdiction of the MPO.

“We have talked about the relevance of relating to transit modalities in surrounding counties and absolutely intend to keep those in mind as the RTA becomes formed,” he said.

City Councilor

Dave Norris

also said that the appropriate officials from those counties will be invited to the discussion as the RTA comes together.

The MPO’s Kellem Emmanuelle reminded the Policy Board this topic has been studied by staff before.

“For those commuters coming in from the broader parts of the region, the attractiveness of commuting in is enhanced when you can get around the urban area,” she said. “It is more likely that people will car-pool if once they get to the urban area it can take them ten or fifteen minutes to get from one side to the other.”


GEORGETOWN ROAD BUS PULL-OUTS

Albemarle County Supervisor

Dennis Rooker

asked CTS Director Bill Watterson if he had been in communication with Greg Krystyniak, the VDOT project engineer for the project to make Georgetown Road more transit and pedestrian friendly. Rooker wanted to know if there was any discussion about creating spaces where buses can pull off the road to let passengers off and on at the six stops along the Road.

“That road carries about 18,000 vehicles a day, and the question is, what do you really want to see there that helps your system function?” He added that more buses will be using the road now that Route 5 runs every half an hour.

Watterson said his preference would be to not have bus pull-outs, because of the difficulty of getting drivers to let buses back into traffic.

“In today’s operating environment, we’re probably preferring to block traffic when we need to serve a stop than to pull out of traffic,” he said. “But we’d be happy to talk to the county if there are spots where the county would prefer for us to pull out of traffic,” he said. He also said that pull-outs are more expensive than just blocking traffic.


UPDATE ON BROOMLEY BRIDGE

Dennis Rooker also updated the MPO about a railroad bridge in Ivy which was damaged earlier this month week after being hit by a train. A train car struck Broomley Bridge after cargo shifted, closing the bridge for two days last week. It may need to be replaced fairly soon.

“It will not handle fire trucks, and there’s a whole lot of people living on the other side of the bridge,” he said. But, the company responsible for the bridge’s upkeep,  Buckingham Branch, say they don’t have the money to help pay for a replacement.

“After this incident it came to light that CSX had supposedly transferred the tracks to Buckingham Branch Railroad, which is not nearly as financially strong as CSX,” Rooker said. The railway owns the right of way and has no obligation to maintain the bridge. “Strangely enough, the railway right of way takes priority over the road right of way.” VDOT is responsible for maintenance, but not for capital improvement costs on bridges.

Rooker said the County doesn’t have the three million it would take for a replacement, but that he is looking into cheaper, temporary options.

VDOT official Brent Sprinkel compared the situation to that with the bridge on Profitt Road, saying that is an example of how railroads will build to  substandard capacities because they are not charged with dealing with traffic.

Slutzky suggested the MPO should take a look at bridge safety issues to plan now for future replacements.


OTHER BUSINESS

Morteza Salehi has left his position as VDOT’s Culpeper District Administrator. Quentin Elliot, who previously headed up the VDOT’s Asset Management Division, has been assigned as the acting administrator. He served in the Williamsburg district for 12 years, at a time when several jurisdictions created a Regional Transportation Authority.

CTS Director Bill Watterson also announced that CTS will offer fare-free service during the month of October, rather than next spring. This was moved up at the request of City Councilor Dave Norris.

Zachary Shahan was introduced as the new director of the group

Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation

.

The MPO also discussed recommendations to make Route 29 more pedestrian-friendly. A recent study by U.Va students was commissioned by the North Charlottesville Business Council, and forwarded on to the MPO. They’ll revisit the issue at their September meeting. One option suggested by a member of the public would be to put a pedestrian bridge up at the same time that increased signage be installed.


TIMELINE

1:00 – Introduction of Quentin Elliott as acting District Administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper District.

3:00 – Matters from the Public

5:23 – Responses to Matters from the Public

8:00 – Approval of minutes from July 18 and June 20 MPO meetings

10:00 – RTA Plan Update from Frank Spielberg of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin

40:00 – MPO Appointments to CHART Committee

45:20 – Other Business – includes discussion of making US 29 more pedestrian-friendly

57:40 – Public Hearing: FY07 TIP Addendum:

1:14:23 – Other Business – Further discussion of CTS, Georgetown Road improvements, as well as a discussion of the replacement of railroad bridges

1:36:30 – Other Matters from the Public